Wednesday, March 14, 2007

falling behind

Attempts to finish posts for 2006 fell apart at the end of the year as the computer I worked on out of town crashed. Since that time, I have been working on another project, a website, and assisting someone in yet another project. In that time I forgot to update this blog and mention that it would be a little time until new posts would appear. I hope to return here soon and begin posting again.

falling behind

Attempts to finish posts for 2006 fell apart at the end of the year as the computer I worked on out of town crashed. Since that time, I have been working on another project, a website, and assisting someone in yet another project. In that time I forgot to update this blog and mention that it would be a little time until new posts would appear. I hope to return here soon and begin posting again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Glass Hands

Illustration: Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

"Mind pervades all", said the Buddha. Our tiny little microverse is a mystery. From where does the defilement and illusion spring forth that captivates us and causes us so much misery? Was there ever a time in history when man could see with the eyes of an ultimate reality? Eons and Eons, kalpas and kalpas of remember and forget and we are left with a path of difficulty, beset with trials and dangers in which every success gains two more twice strong illusions. The veil is thick.
How much influence do we have in this universe, into nature, and on our own bodies? A lifetime of migraines and little help from the medical community has led me to turn my attention inward as much as outward, to use my love of the patterns of behavior and nature I observed as a child and apply this to an attention to patterns and cycles within my own body. I learned to listen to the ailments of others and to observe the discrepancy between spoken ailment and acted pain. As my migraine headaches worsened I began to see cycles within my own body and patterns to my headaches. Ruling out as many factors as possible, I attempted to ascertain which foods, behaviors, positions, hours of the day, etc led to such a dramatic increase in my migraine condition. Many early causes were laughable for some physicians. Many years later what had been humorous were accepted migraine triggers.
Being sensitive to my inner patterns, I could see the breakdown of the balance of my body when I began to take prescription medications for migraines. My headaches were far too severe not to take them, but I could feel something inside my body that was wrong. A cascade of problems followed that I could contribute to the medications, whether the medical community did or not.
My position at that time had typing as a main focus and I noticed that soon my hands began to ache. It wasn't just my hands. As my intake of medications for migraines increased, I could feel other joints ache and become tight, but it was in the hands that I could feel first the sharp pain in what felt like muscle or tendon, and then later in the joints themselves. It wasn't long before a few of my finger joints were swollen and typing became a painful experience. In my early twenties, just months into this job, I found myself with unexplainable joint pain and damage. The typing had triggered the damage, yes, but someone so young, and otherwise healthy should not have such fast damage to the fingers. Everyday the condition grew worse. At the point where I knew that I could not go on and that I was damaging my joints beyond repair, I called a stop to the problem and went to see a doctor. An independent physician x-rayed my fingers and determined that I had arthritis in my finger joints. The typing had only aggravated this crippling disease. This would explain how the damage could occur so quickly in someone so young. My company, in an attempt to escape any liability, sent me to a second physician who worked with them frequently on worker's compensation cases. This physician also concluded that I had arthritis, but as to swollen joints, she was not convinced. Any laymen could see the large swollen joints and compare them from one hand to the other. To make a scientific evaluation, she wrapped a tape measure around the less swollen left hand's knuckle loosely, barely touching the skin, then wrote down the measurement. When she wrapped the tape around the right knuckle, she pulled very tight, squeezing against the joint, causing the skin below to turn white. The numbers turned out the same. It was hardly scientific. It was hardly fair. I could see the motive behind her methods and moved on with the fact that I had been diagnosed with a crippling disease.
I have seen severe arthritis destroy the hands, feet, and entire bodies of people unfortunate to suffer the burden. As a musician, I had been waiting months to play music again, with no chance, given the amount of time spent typing at work and the pain it was causing. I knew that music had not led to my demise for I had never been one to play hours on end or spend too much time in practice. On the other hand, to imagine a life in which I would never again be able to play the piano, or the guitar, or type a story or play sports was terrifying.
One last physician x-rayed my hand and confirmed the conclusion. Arthritis. Get ready for a new life. Glass hands.
Stepping from the hands a moment, in my internal investigations, I could see that at times the pain in my head did not seen to have an origin in my head. It was as if the pain originated in the back or the neck. I could also see that there were times that a migraine was caused by muscular tension, while at other times, the migraine itself brought on muscular tension. I wanted to find out what would happen if I could take this muscular tension out of the equation. How much of these horrible migraines are in the head and how much is in the muscle? My quest led me to little bumps on the trapezius, the neck, the jaw and various other places that I soon found out were known as trigger points. A trigger point is basically a knot in the muscle fibers that cannot be treated with traditional massage, medication, meditation, or other common therapies. The fascinating thing about trigger points is that they rarely give off pain at the sight of the problem itself. For example, trigger points on the sternocleidomastoid, (the muscle on the front on the neck) refer pain not on the neck itself, but above the eyes and in front and in back of the ears. The a trigger point of the trapezius (the muscle from the neck the shoulder) can refer pain on the side of the head behind the eye, on the side of the neck and the lower jaw. The list goes on and on. In The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, author Clair Davies explains that he treated trigger points in the forearms in people complaining of so-called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome so often who gained complete recovery that he wondered if Carpal Tunnel Syndrome even existed.
Reality is a construct of our minds but as we can see, the nervous system plays funny little tricks. We do not even know the source of pain in our own bodies. The doctor looks for the source of the problem near where we point, but the source is far away. The source is tiny little trigger points. Alas, the doctor knows little of this. This doctor might "find" something wrong with the patient and surgery might be the only answer. This "find" will only make the patient worse, for the trigger point was never treated. Later, when the trigger point is treated by the few who know something of it, the patient must deal with the emotional scars of an ill-equipped doctor and the physical scars of wrongful surgery. Was it all just a matter of trigger points for me? No, no, no. The point is that we cannot trust the mind, nor can we trust what we are told about our own bodies. We can construct our own reality for we have constructed the old one.
I sat at home, with swollen, painful, glass hands, wondering what I could do. I was careful with my hands. I tried not to stress them. I tried not to type too often at home. I tried to keep my hands loose. I could feel other parts of my body weakening. I felt like it was time to wait for time to take me. Migraines and arthritis would bring further troubles to my body. It was at this time I thought of an ancient practice performed in the Shaolin temple known as Iron fist or Iron palm training. Monks would punch hard objects to gradually build up the muscle, tendon, and bone in their hands, using herbs to protect them from injury. At the time I imagined myself during this training and found it amusing to think of my fragile hands breaking into one thousand pieces on the first day. Then I thought of what the Buddha said about the mind and reality. The initial stages of the decline of my hands had taken place on their own, but at one point, my own mind began to believe in the fragility. I decided that my mind was too well disciplined to allow this too happened. (In actuality , the discipline came later) I began to see my hands as iron, not glass. I would stretch my fingers out each day, but not treat them delicately. I would pull them like each was a hard piece are solid iron. In the gym, I began an exercise in which I would support my forearm, place a weight in my hand, and roll the weight out slowly onto my fingertips. I started out with a very light weight, but within a year I could support a weight on my fingertips that bodybuilders and powerlifters could not, for they had not done this sort of training and found it very difficult to handle that a smaller person could train with such heavy weight. I trained numerous exercises to gain grip strength, turning weakness to strength. When it was all over, doctor after doctor exclaimed that I did not, and did not ever have arthritis. They cannot explain the still swollen knuckle which is my reminder of the past. Each doctor can only explain that the three previous doctors must have made a mistake. The x-ray must have been misread or have been switched. Another possibility is that, just as in the days when physicians used leaches to cure disease, the doctor has yet to understand the mind and the strong impact it has on the world and the body. While science hardly deals with this issue, it is paramount to the path of Buddhism. They are free to believe what they will. For me, I am comfortable with the time I turned silk into iron.

Davies, Clair Trigger Point Therapy Workbook Oakland: New Harbinger Publications. 2001


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Tomb

The Master Tombbuilder surveyed the land in front on him. To the east the holy mountains sheltered the coming tomb from winds and evil spirits. To the west, the vast dessert promised security from foreign lands. The sun watched high overhead, approving of the days work of marking off corners and rooms. The first inner wall was to be built.
Breaking with tradition and to save time and money, the Master Tombbuilder decided to use a local sacred softstone for the inner wall to improve the beauty and sanctity of the site. The first few layers of stone had been set without event. The Master set down his crossed leveling device onto the stone and watched the pendulum to ensure that the wall was indeed level. All was going as planned. He handed the leveling device to his apprentice.
When the wall reached shoulder height, a horrible rumble was heard, dust came forth from the lowest level, and within seconds, the stone cracked and began to fall. Men on wooden stools were hit by falling stone and mortar. Dozens of bricks of softstone hit the floor, cracked and broken. The men were panicked.
After cleaning up the destruction the Master Tombbuilder called the Head Priest from the Temple. Clearly the wall had failed because they had not sought the approval from the gods. To the man they went to one knee, one knuckle to the floor, and said their oaths to the gods. The Head Priest blessed the site and the men with his holy stick and returned to the temple.
The wall was built up again, but when the height reached that of the shoulder, the rumbling was heard, the cracked began to form, and the wall fell. Men were again injured and began to panic. The Master Tombbuilder sent the apprentice to fetch the Head Priest.
"Master, is it possible..."
"Silence! Fetch the Head Priest, boy," ordered the Master Tombbuilder.

The Head Priest returned. This time he blessed the site, the men, the Master Tombbuilder, his tools, and the stone. With that, he returned to the temple. Yet when the wall again reached the height of a man's shoulder, it fell.
The Master Tombbuilder sent the apprentice to fetch the Head Priest.
"Master, is it possible..."
"Do as you are told, boy. Get the Head Priest quickly or the gods shall take you," barked the Master Tombbuilder.

The Head Priest returned. This time he blessed the site, the men, the Master Tombbuilder, his tools, and the stone. He reasoned that the wall had fallen because the gods needed the priest to stay there. The priest stayed and the wall fell again.
The apprentice picked up a broken piece of softstone and looked up from the floor at the two powerful men.
"Master and Priest, I think the fault is in the stone itself, not in our affinity with the gods."
The two men began to laugh as they looked to each other.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Visions of Enlightenment

With online exhibits on The Buddha, Buddhist Places, Compassionate Beings, and Signs, Symbols and Ritual Objects, the Pacific Asian Museum presents Visions of Enlightenment: Understanding the Art of Enlightenment.

Each exhibit includes a fact? or fiction? quiz with an art reward.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


For those who haven't used the service, Technorati allows users to search news and blog feeds using keywords, tags, or in the directory. With each post, this blog notifies Technorati that a new post is available, which then appears under recent posts on the website. While doing a search for 'Buddhism' at Technorati, I found that frequently a recurring entry has appeared.
Drug companies are now using key words such as Buddhism to get drugs such as Celebrex in front of the eyes of surfers.
On entry read:

Celebrex · 2 hours ago
It begg'st the Celebrex of a board-quarter-boats'-watch of faith, and in this spice-tree it accustomed probably of somedeal moat-stench than the emperess of Buddhism. Thou Celebrex an object of adoration with even him who burlesques overemphasized Kashiwabara

Every few pages one will find another drug such as Viagra and Ultram. We can't dare ask that religion be spared from the marketing ploys of the mega-corporations for we find horrid manipulation and greed within and without any and every religion on the planet. This is not the fault of religion, but the weakness of wrong view.

Here in Miami, every weekend in the burning sun, people become human billboards, holding up large signs, announcing the new high rises to be built along Biscayne Boulevard. Those holding the signs will never afford such a place.

Every morning, on busy 4 lane intersections, vendors sell the local Miami Herald on the median, two feet perched on a small bed of concrete, as hurried motorists worry more about getting anywhere than the life that stands between them. Some vendors have been struck down. Another takes his place the following day. The paper must be sold.

Man is our enemy. We need what he has. He has our job. He has our car. He has what we need. It is all a matter of survival.

What good is the blossoming flower or the sound of the wind through the leaves on our ears?
This will not bring wealth, prosperity, pay a mortgage, secure a girlfriend, make others appreciate us, or bring security. All that matters is what we have.

In Zen Training, Katsuki Sekida so clearly states, "the necessity of living makes consciousness look on things in the world as being in the nature of equipment."

Everything that we value we see as equipment. Anything else we ignore or destroy.

We look at the world and see each object, each person, and find what value and service it has for us.

How can I use this?
How can it serve me?

Those that bring a utility of amusement, or gossip, that service our need to distract from stress and loneliness, we call a friend. If they fail to serve that utility, we cut off the relationship.

Family, friends, the blender, our car, a pet, each of these is a piece of equipment to our mind which serves a utility function to the ego.

We ask, "how can the world be in such turmoil?"

We see that when the mass of humanity fundamentally views objects and people as simply equipment to service the craving of the ego mind, as the fire of the ego begins to burn, all things are possible.

If we open the curtain and expose this ugly ego, we will see this view of the world and we might like to close the curtain again and pretend that all is well. It is far harder to face this hidden warrior with no shape that gives rise to suffering. As children we did not have such a narrow, conceptual view of the world. We could watch the bird fly and gasp at the colors. We could look in wonder at the rainbow. When the adult sees these things he passes them by for they serve no function, but to the child, they are an endless source of wonder.

While leaving the checkout counter of the bookstore I made my way to the door and saw many sour faces. It seems that while I was shopping it had started raining very hard and many of the shoppers were not happy about it. As I walked outside, many people stood together, with brows down, words of complaint spilling forth, waiting for the rain to stop. Why didn't the world just always work the way that they wanted it to?

A young couple had attempted to make the dash from their car to the bookstore but after water puddles and heavy rain, halfway to the door they were both thoroughly soaked. She began to get a little angry, then her anger faded, she turned to the young man, stopped, and kicked water on him. He was shocked at first, and frustrated, then his frustration faded, and his joined in the water battle. Within seconds, while the majority of the customers stewed in their own self-made misery over drops of water, these two people were laughing and playing like children, lost in time. As I walked to my car in the rain I watched these two people enjoying the moment. Both had wanted to shop. Clearly that moment had passed. Rain had come and with the rain they danced and played with an audience of fools lost in their own craving and greed, lost in their own need for utility. They couldn't find the joy in the rain. Open the curtain.

1.Katsuki Sekida Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy Tokyo: John Weatherhill, Inc. 1975


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Film: The Giant Buddhas

On October 24th, the film 'The Giant Buddhas' will be released. Here is a synopsis of the film.

Christian Frei's documentary traces the tragic tale of the giant Buddhas of Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, which stood as monumental landmarks for 1,500 years until 2001, when the Taliban declared that all non-Islamic statues in the country be destroyed. Despite international protest, the statues were blown up. Through interwoven narratives from past and present, Frei's film sheds light on the disturbing consequences of religious fanaticism.


The Giant Buddhas Film Site


Friday, September 29, 2006

Thought Moments

I ran into this Youtube project which is similiar to a project I am working on for

Here is the summary of the video:
"In Buddhism, the mental states experienced after a physical or mental object enters the mind are called THOUGHT MOMENTS. During interviews with people on the city streets, the micro-expressions of the interviewees are slowed down and eye direction is tracked, highlighting the responses to ten simple questions."

These thought moments are broken down into 6 categories and the director has decided that each eye movement aiming in a particular direction can be categorized under that field. It sounds very foolish until about minute 5:00 when one begins to see time after time the process repeat. Though not scientific, it is interesting. is far from completed and will remain a dusty little calling card page until the actual website is fully completed and all projects are ready. If my poor computer skills can grasp Macromedia Flash and my paper ideas become a reality, look for multimedia presentations on ideas too complex to present in text form.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Milarepa Film Update

Original Post: Milarepa

Checking back at the site reveals that the film is now available on DVD.

The Dvd is available in two editions:

A Special Edition DVD-
"This includes the full feature length widescreen version of the film.

Special Features:
Who is Milarepa?
A documentary exploring the historical Milarepa. With Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Pema Chodron, and others..
- Interview with the Director
- 5.1 surround sound
- Optional English Subtitles
- Theatrical Trailer
quote from

A Special Dharma Edition DVD-
"A boxed 3 DVD Set containing the Milarepa film as well as an exclusive 4-hour teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The teaching provides a rare and concise introduction to the Dzogchen path,as well as His Holiness' own rendering of the life story of Milarepa." quote from


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Iron Wrapped In Silk


Recently I was speaking with someone about the dual nature of the cat's paw while my nearly year old kitten Jubei-kun sat in front of me. I explained first that in gong fu the practitioner learns that blocking the punching fist is unskillful, for the fist moves very fast. If the practitioner makes a block at the very slow moving elbow, the block is much easier. With the cat, the claw is very sharp and can easily cut through human skin. The reflexes of the cat are even sharper and combine with the paw to form a viscious weapon. I stuck out my hand and pulled it back quickly, playing a game of reflexes with Jubei-kun. After a few tries, the young feline succeeded in catching my hand with a claw and quickly attached the claws from the other front paw. At that point he pulled both front paws inward, bit playfully, and then attacked with the rear claws to finish off my hand. If my hand had been prey, my hand would have been finished.
There is another side to the cat's paw. As we began the reflex game again, I flipped my hand over Jubei-kun's paw, to the top side. Here there is no danger. The cat claw is designed to move forward and grab, but can do little about an object directly behind it. This is where my intended lesson surprised even me. Just seconds before Jubei-kun had been playing roughly, attacking like a true predator. As I flipped my hand over his paw and began to stroke the soft fur on the other side, in an instant, his eyes closed, his muscles relaxed, and he began to purr.
To experiment, I again touched the claw side and the war began again. Just as quickly I touched the soft side and again, Jubei-kun was relaxed and purring.
Not every example I give goes so well, it not only worked for the situation, but gave me further insight into what I was attempting to explain.
Though we don't have claws, we humans also have this dual nature. When someone touches our claws, we attack. When someone touches our soft side, we tend to reply gently, though not usually to the extreme of my kitten. When two individuals, or two groups, or two countries, face off over time, heated exchanges may occur to a point in which both sides are convinced that each action, retaliation, or comment is a response to an action from the other. This will be the response from both sides.
How often do speak to others with words that may contain only gentle meaning, but clearly go to the cat's claw? When we get an excited response, we can reply that our comments were not harmful. We can look deeply and find the true intent. Many times, suffering incurred at work or in another environment is displaced on our friend or spouse. We carry our suffering like two buckets of waters on a bamboo pole until we can find someone else to dump it on. Not to feel like those who made us suffer, we play mind games and tricks, giving kind words with a hidden poison. When we reach the point where both sides feel that each action is a response to the other's attack, the situation is truly dire.
Mindfulness is the most powerful solution. When we approach others attempted to reach the other side of the paw, we will often reach a side of them we have not seen. Of course, some will not show this side, but that is not our concern. We do not want to live our lives biting our own tail, eating away until we get too far along. We can end this cycle of foolishness with mindful living. Retaliation is not our business. We live our lives on the soft side of the cat's paw.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Master

If we imagine that we are the champion in the ring, on the pitch, or on the field, we cannot say that we are the master. Age is our master. We are on top, but only for a time. Someone faster, more skilled, more gifted, with a new set of ideas with come to replace us and we will be left with only memories and trophies.

If we say that we are the most beautiful, age will show that it is the master again. If we are the most intelligent in our firm or company, another will soon come and that status will change. If we feel that we have power, when we look upwards, we find those above us. Those at the top find that they still answer to the many below in some way or another. The master has many other masters, or he holds the crown for only a short time.

In this short precious life we cannot hold on to anything. We cannot guarantee anything. We cannot be certain of a breathe, of continual sight or other senses, or that we will share in the joys of our past. We cannot be certain of a continued love or friendship. Some will attempt to hold on to these things with every ounce of effort and energy. They devote their lives to holding on to wealth, status, love, and any other possession. They have attained a high standard: the Master of Fools.

We can all be one master and one master only. We are born with a mind but at birth it is taken from us. We lose control of it. When others taunt us or say things to our displeasure, we yell back or we cry. They have decided our reaction. We are the puppet. Things will dangle in front of our senses and we will react, and the strings of our puppet mind will move. We have little control. Most of us will play this dance for the audience of other puppets for an entire life or many, with no hope of escape. We are different.

When we heard the words, "Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of suffering....." we found in our hands a tiny pair of scissors and we cut our first string, yet the puppet still dances to and fro. We have one chance to be a master, a master of our mind, which plays us for a fool. We cut strings until we learn to see beyond string and no-string. Then we no longer need tools. We are different. We have heard the words. We have taken the steps. We have to keep taking them. Buddhism is a daily practice in unthinking, not a religion of practices, sayings, and sutras. If we find ourselves before a Buddha made of wood or stone, or a Buddha bound in print, and we seek out this Buddha, then we later have one more string to cut. Where is the Buddha in our mind? If we kneel to the Buddha, we create the Buddha, and the puppet dance begins again. Let us not be the Master of Fools.

Happy cutting.


Saturday, September 09, 2006


In the Anguttara Nikaya, Buddha Gotama tells us of the story of Araka.

"Long ago, O monks, there lived a religious teacher named Araka, who was free of sensual lust. He had many hundreds of disciples, and this was the doctrine he taught to them:

"Short is the life of human beings, O brahmins, limited and brief; it is full of suffering, full of tribulation. This one should wisely understand. One should do good and live a pure life; for none who is born can escape death.

Araka then gives many examples to his disciples to give them a sense of this short life.

"Just as a line drawn on water will quickly vanish and will not last long; even so, brahmins, is human life like a line drawn on water. It is short, limited, and brief; it is full of suffering, full of tribulation. This one should wisely understand. One should do good and live a pure life; for none who is born can escape death.

"Just as a mountain stream, coming from afar, swiftly flowing, carrying away much flotsam, will not stand for a moment, an instant, a second, but will rush on, swirl and flow forward; even so, brahmins, is human life like a mountain stream. It is short.... for none who is born can escape death.

"Just as, when a cow is to be slaughtered is led to the shambles, whenever she lifts a leg she will be closer to slaughter, closer to death; even so, brahmins, is human life like cattle doomed to slaughter. It is short.... for none who is born can escape death.

It was after this lesson that Buddha Gotama revealed the most interesting secret of Araka and his group.

"But at that time, O monks, the human lifespan was 60,000 years, and at 500 years girls were ready for marriage. In those days people had but six afflictions: cold, heat, hunger, thirst, excrement, and urine. Though people lived so long and had so few afflictions, that teacher Araka gave to his disciples such a teaching: 'Short is the life of human beings....'

Then Buddha Gotama calculated the number of summers and winters, and the number of meals that a centenarian could expect. How short is just 100 years compared to that of 60, 000. It is clear that in our time we have more afflictions and less time. We are fortunate to live in an age where the words have not been forgotten and we can still free ourselves from this suffering. To do this, we must not always put off our practice and mindfulness until tomorrow, for even in the time of Araka, the time was too short.

"Whatever should be done by a compassionate teacher who, out of compassion, seeks the welfare of his disciples, that I have done for you. These are the roots of the tree, O monks, these are the empty huts. Meditate, monks, do not be negligent, or else you will regret it later. This is our instruction to you."

(Anguttara Nikaya 7:70; IV 136-39)

Sutra from:
Bodhi, Bhikkhu In The Buddha's Words Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2005


Monday, August 28, 2006

Sip and Gulp

A popular fast-food restaurant has a drinking cup that reads:



At first we might think this is very good advice. But is it?
Sure, it is nice to take the time to enjoy the drink, but if we jump back into the caffeine fueled fray of the modern world, we have only a memory. If we think of life as a meal, then gulping it down would be similiar to chewing only once or twice and then stuffing more food into our mouths. We would go from main course to side dish, one after the other, tasting very little, getting in as much food in as little time as possible as our goal.
Isn't there a motto about getting as much done as possible before we die? Cramming it all in.
We don't taste anything. We don't know what we are eating. We didn't chew and therefore we gain less nutrition. We maintain our pattern of excitability. Our meal will mean little more to us than a breathe. Those precious moments of experience are spent scattered.
Those noble one's, live now, not then. They seek never the future nor the past. The perfect moment is always ripening. Only those that listen can see.

So perhaps the cup should read as follows:


or simply,



Sunday, August 27, 2006


"In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves 'their highnesses,' 'their majesties,' and 'their exalted majesties' and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day." -H.G. Wells

I can't draw the line exactly where my knowledge of Asoka is based in history and where it is based in myth. Here is my history/mythology:
Asoka was a Prince and general in the Mauriyan army who rose to power until he was sent into exile in nearby Kalinga through the influence of his eldest brother, Susima, who feared his power. Later, when a revolt broke out in the country, he was called back. A number of bloody events occured that led to his enthronement. Asoka then set off to broaden his domain. At its greatest, his empire stretched through all of what is now India, to Iran and Afghanistan. It was when he turned again to Kalinga that his life changed. After he conquered the country and united his empire, Asoka realized the brutality of his life and that he had won nothing. He saw that there were no true prizes for an emperor. He had seen another side of life through his Buddhist wife and time in a Buddhist monastery, which manifested at this pivotal time. Asoka began building stupas all over India, and set out in search of the historical locations of Buddha's life. In Sarnath he built the Dhamekh stupa, marking the spot where the Buddha gave his first sermon.
According to legend, near the end of his life, Asoka gave up his kindgom, adopted the alms bowl and ochre robes, and retired into the forest, leaving behind a great legacy for the world.

The Film- 'Asoka-only the dead have seen the end of war'
The film Ashoka begins by stating that liberties have been taken and that the film is not meant to be historically accurate. One would guess that the many times that Ashoka and friends begin dancing and singing along with half of the town might be this stated liberty. While the film is entertaining and does show a transformation, I would not recommend it or my historical/mythological biography above as a definitive source of Asoka. The purpose in this post is simply this: If you would like to watch Ashoka to learn about the historical Asoka, better to save your money.

Asoka Sources
The Palm Leaf: Type 'Asoka' in Search Box
The Edicts of King Ashoka


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Empty-Handed I Go

Empty-handed I go, and behold the spade is in my hands; I walk on foot, and yet on the back of an ox I am riding; When I pass over a bridge, Lo, the water floweth not, but the bridge doth flow.

It just isn't safe to go anywhere or do anything without an umbrella of insurance for protection these days. If we want to set out on the dangerous roadways, we must make sure that we have automobile insurance, first to ensure that we can protect ourselves and afford to repair any damages caused by other drivers, second, to compensate others for damages we have caused, and third, to protect us from those who do not have insurance. We must also have insurance to pay for our expensive medications treating serious conditions with few alternative treatments, and the majority of medications which mask problems that can be treated without medication, but require discipline, which is what is truly lacking in the patient. There is insurance for the home, for the teeth, and for our pets. We live in constant fear that everything will be taken from us and so we try to ensure that we are protected. The walls we build are never high enough.
In the spiritual world, we see many who grasp hold of Buddhism for whatever reason, but leave a small portion of their old ways and beliefs behind, like a bit of insurance, just in case it turns out that things turns out badly. It seems that we want a little bit of spiritual insurance so that if the Buddha can't magically solve all of our problems, we can go back to our old religion and cash in our insurance, proving that we never left in the first place. If we imagine two Olympic sprinters tied together at the ankle by an eight foot rope, one sets of to the north and the other to the south, and soon, they will turn in a circle or pull against each other. We cannot set off into the open ocean without form when our ship is still heavily tied to the shore. Until we are brave enough to live without that bit of insurance, we will not know the fruits of the path. As Eiji Yoshikawa says in the final sentence of Musashi, "The little fishes, abandoning themselves to the waves, dance and sing and play, but who knows the heart of the sea, a hundred feet down? Who knows its depth?"